In 2008 the big banks were “too big to fail,” but now in 2012 bank “criminals” seem to be “too big to jail.”
According to a Dec. 11, USA Today story, the British banking giant Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) agreed to pay a record $1.92 billion settlement after a broad investigation by U.S. federal and state authorities found the bank violated federal laws by laundering money from Mexican drug trafficking and processing banned transactions on behalf of Iran, Libya, Sudan and Burma.
Between 2006 and 2010, Mexican drug traffickers laundered at least $881 million in illegal proceeds through accounts in HSBC’s U.S. arm, according to the story. The bank reportedly supplied a billion dollars to a firm whose founder had ties to Al-Qaeda and shipped billions in cash from Mexico to the United States, despite warnings the money was coming from drug cartels. Earlier this year, a Senate investigation concluded that HSBC provided a “gateway for terrorists to gain access to U.S. dollars and the U.S. financial system.”
However, unlike the fairytales shown to us on TV and in the movies, no one involved with the bank has been indicted. When asked by Amy Goodman on NPR’s Democracy Now! “What does the Justice Department, what does the Obama administration, gain by not actually holding HSBC accountable?” Matt Taibbi, author of the book Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, answered: “I really believe—and I think a lot of people believe this—that the Obama administration sincerely accepts the rationale that to aggressively prosecute crimes committed by this small group of too-big-to-fail banks would undermine confidence in the global financial system and that they therefore have to give them a pass on all sorts of things …”
So because HSBC is “too big to fail,” all of its managers are “too big to jail.” On the other hand, according to Mr. Taibbi, “There are 50,000 marijuana possession cases in New York City alone every year. And here we have a bank that laundered $800 million of drug money, and they can’t find a way to put anybody in jail for that.”
When a Black man is caught with 28 grams of cocaine, he goes straight to jail for five years and most of his citizenship rights are taken from him, forever. Too bad “Honest Abe” overlooked the “fine print” in the Thirteenth Amendment, which gave America the right to impose involuntary servitude on any Black “convicted of a crime.”